Sunday, 10 September 2017

Digital Marketing Strategies for Start-ups

With both competitors and potential customers constantly online, digital marketing is the only way to stay ahead. A big part of marketing strategy is digital. Any business can compete with any competitor regardless of size with a solid digital marketing strategy.

As a starting point, here are some research activities to get you started with your small business digital marketing plan:
  1. Customer profiles (or personas) – which types of customers visit your site and then convert to lead or sale? How does this differ compared to other traditional channels? We believe that businesses of all sizes should have target personas or “pen portraits” of 2 to 3 customer types.
  2. Customer search behaviour research – determine how your prospects search as explored in the Reach section – understanding the volume and type of customer intent is vital where you are looking to grab more share of search when people search for your products or services
  3. Competitor research – You can run a profitable site without considering competitors, but a review as part of planning will definitely give you ideas and is essential to spot weaknesses and opportunities as part of SWOT analysis. 
  4. Influencer, partner and intermediary research – which types of people and other sites will influence your audience as they look for your type or product and service? This is often neglected, but partnerships and certain types of influencers6 can be a great source of low cost, quality traffic.
  5. Current business effectiveness – mine your sales data
Consumers and businesses alike are almost always online and to be able to reach them and observe their behaviour where they spend the most time digital marketing strategy comes handy. It’s the series of actions that are going to help to achieve goal(s) using online marketing. 

Several low cost digital marketing strategies for the start-ups are listed below:

A. SEARCH MARKETING
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key to every website. The start-ups must know the keywords where the website must rank on top 3 organic results. In case it’s an e-commerce, it will require paid search marketing activities to bring product in front of the consumers.

B. MARKETING FUNNEL CREATION
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) should be used for understanding why visitors are not ‘converting’ into customers, and then improving messaging or value proposition to increase this rate of conversions which can be done by understanding visitors and their objections.
  • The most successful businesses have an effective marketing funnel in place. This includes mapping out a customer’s journey from a complete stranger to a lead, and then putting certain strategies in place that will encourage them to move through this funnel.
  • Landing Page Optimization: The landing page of any startup is one of the crucial factors in generating the lead about the product and then ultimately making the business out of it by selling those products. Landing page must be good enough to compel visitors to get converted into customers.
  • Internal Pages Optimization: There are free and cheaper solutions for optimizing internal pages for conversion. Free plugins can be used for capturing emails and then leveraging affordable services like MailChimp for drip campaigns. 
  • Using free tools like Google Analytics to monitor visitor’s paths to the website and once they are on it, finding opportunities to create a more user-friendly experience. Optimizing forms on website to build a stronger inbound lead funnel. Finding cheap and reliable cart services to sell products directly through site. 
C. CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing is one of the most overlooked investments in launching a startup, which can be done by engaging in industry research and formulating unique selling propositions. 
  • Visually stimulating content, with appealing imagery and minimal words score a lot when it comes to websites. However, that cannot diminish the power of captivating words, and they are as good as the pictures.
  • One of the most important steps to an effective content marketing strategy is the content promotion. Amplify it as much as possible. Leverage social media profiles, email industry experts, reach out to LinkedIn groups or industry forums, and contribute to other popular sites that target consumers might visit. 
D. E-MAIL MARKETING
E-mail marketing is now becoming one of the best digital marketing weapons which will not only help startup to promote its brand but will also help in generating lead to make business for the brand.

E. SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
Social media is one of the most cost effective ways to market startup.  In addition to providing a platform for growing brand, it offers an easy medium for promotion and customer service opportunities. It is a way to build brand voice. This can be done on a frequent and consistent pace. Find and share customer related information. 
  • Many social media platforms and search engines have the feature of showing paid ads on their platform which any start-up can easily afford as most of these paid ads starts with a minimum budget of $10. You can also further increase the budget according to requirement to gain much better reach among target audience.
  • There are a number of different social opportunities that one can invest in all of which have merit depending on the industry and unique selling proposition. 
  • Facebook is steadily becoming a pay-to-play platform, and to see any engagement, investment on Facebook posts promotion can be done. 
  • While Twitter still provides a good amount of organic engagement, the microblogging platform also has paid solutions for businesses, with one being sponsored tweet. By providing a sponsored tweet, higher engagement will most likely occur with followers (and others).
  • LinkedIn has a number of extremely valuable paid features, including a Sales Navigator that makes finding leads and contacts seamless. 
  • One of the biggest benefits of social media for business is using it to increase website traffic. Not only does social media help direct people to website, but the more social media shares received, the higher search ranking will be. 
F. MULTI-CHANNEL STRATEGY
A digital marketing strategy should always be multi channelled in nature, to track and analyse every channel. It helps in covering every possible segment of your target audience. Blogs give interest and opinion for viewers, hence helping them choose between alternatives. YouTube podcasts help consumers by informing them about the products.

Running a startup on a shoestring budget is hard enough. Keeping marketing costs down while capitalizing on successful digital opportunities, one will be able to improve brands visibility without sacrificing a large budget.

Hope you find it useful !

ACCOUNT BASED MARKETING - A DIGITAL PERSPECTIVE

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalised campaigns designed to resonate with each account & its key decision makers to achieve mutually agreed business goals and objectives.

Please note that my post would be limited to digital medium only from execution perspective. However, the ABM concept broadly remains same & offline ABM activities that you might be doing already can be added in step 3. 

5 Step approach for ABM:

five-step-abm-approach
5 Step Approach for ABM

STEP 1: Select Target Accounts
The primary step is to find out who exactly you would like to reach out to. This steps requires an elaborate discussion between sales and marketing teams. Some could be high worth accounts, existing accounts, strategic accounts and so on. The step not only includes identifying target accounts for your business but also the exact departments (job function & seniority) and decision makers within those departments.

STEP 2: Define Objective (or goals)
If you would like to avoid any confrontation with the CEO in future then make sure the objectives/ goals are identified & mutually discussed with the top management well before initiating any account specific outreach activity. 

The objectives can be as follows:
a. Secure more meetings with senior management
b. Close a higher percentage of large deals
c. Drive faster sales cycle time
d. Grow revenue within existing accounts
e. Promote higher customer loyalty

STEP 3: Identify Digital Channels
Well, here i am only focusing on digital channels but please make sure all your offline activities are in sync with digital promotions (eg. physical meeting after a digital campaign; geo-targeted ads before physical events etc.). 

Identifying right digital channels is a no-brainer, some of the key channels that can be leveraged are: 

a. LinkedIn (obviously the best) - There're plethora of options available such as LinkedIn ABM, LinkedIn Remarketing, LinkedIn Sponsored InMails, Spotlight and Text ads. Do make use of new features such as 1 click lead gen, LinkedIn contact retargeting & website retargeting. Do not forget to integrate Eloqua (if you've Eloqua as marketing automation platform) with LinkedIn.

b. Email (the cheapest) - This requires database or list of email addresses of contacts within your target accounts.

c. Account targeted display ads on ad networks (may require high investments but can be targeted to account and job-seniority levels). Key service providers are: Demandbase, Vendemore, 6 Sense, Kwanzoo, DMPs such as Oracle Bluekai etc.

d. DMPs (the costlier but more targeted) - Create segments and reach out to them via search, display, email, mobile etc.

e. Account re-targeting: Reach out to accounts who've been to your website again & to opt-in contacts (make sure they're double opt-in for specific geos such as Canada & European region). Most of the service providers mentioned in point c. have the account remarketing capabilities as well. Specifically for contact level retargeting, you can use AdRoll CRM re-targeting, Google customer match, Twitter tailored audience & Facebook custom audience.

STEP 4: Personalise Content
Leverage IP based and cookie based personalization technologies to serve relevant and appropriate content to your target audience & (or accounts). It is not wise (esp. in today's world) to serve same content to all website visitors. Segment visitors on the basis of company name or a particular action taken in your website and make the experience more personalized. Example, audience spending more than x minutes on a particular section of the website or downloading content about specific products and services can be shown a more relevant content. 

You can make use of Demandbase, Oracle Maxymiser, Google optimize etc. to serve personalized content across website (Demandbase & Kwanzoo can also help personalize banner ads served on ad networks to specific accounts/ industries). There's a rise in Artificial intelligence based website personalization as well (eg. Demandbase site customization). It'll be interesting to see how advertisers can leverage AI based personalization with ABM.

STEP 5: Enable Sales
Whatever ABM activities you've taken up, make sure all of them are aligned to objectives discussed in step 2. Enable sales team by showing results of all ABM activities by preparing an account level pre & post type of reporting. It's vital to have a strong analytics platform within your organization to get to this type of reporting. Google & Adobe analytics are two most widely used platforms, recently there's a rise in predictive intelligence based analytics tools as well (eg. 6Sense). 

Marketing team should ensure that sales receive timely website activity report done both at an account level and at individual level along with campaign specific reporting. Some organizations prefer to show a dashboard (instead of excel report) using Qlik, Google data studio, Klipfolio etc. 

Well that's it ! Make sure you've a project plan with timelines before you initiate any of the above.

Benefits of ABM
It won't be apt for me to say the rhetoric that ABM will get you: Better & Clear ROI; Tight & Close alignment between sales & marketing; Optimise spends & Efficient tracking of goals. My advise is - Do it and find out how ABM is working for your company.

Happy ABMing !!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Buyer Journey: Mapping Digital Channels & Metrics

My previous post on "Measuring the effectiveness of paid digital campaigns" inspired me to write this post. In fact, i encounter this question from my colleagues a lot that - What is an ideal channel mix for a digital campaign? Well, my answer to them is that it all depends on the campaign objective & the attributes of your target audience. It may not be necessary that all individuals in your target audience are in same phase of their buyer journey or not all might be progressing in a similar way. Some of them might be already aware of your brand, some might be considering other brand options just because they read a negative review about your brand and a fraction of your target audience could be on the verge of buying from your brand and are waiting for that final trigger. And hence, it may not be appropriate to just consider one or two ad units/channels for your digital campaign.

To answer the question on an ideal channel mix for a digital campaign, one should have the capability to segment the audience on the basis of where they're in their respective buying journey & then map various digital channels and their respective ad formats to those segments. On the basis of my experience & learning, i've created an illustration that maps channels & their respective formats with various phases of customer buying journey (Awareness, Consideration, Purchase & Engage).

digital channels mapped with buyer journey
Digital Channels: Buyer journey
NOTE: You may use channels mentioned in 'Purchase' phase in 'Consideration' phase as well, the illustration above is a subjective view on what formats work best in which phase. Regardless of the channel, the messaging used on these channels plays a crucial role & must align with users in respective phases for eg. a discount code migh work well for audience in consideration & purchase phase.

Now, once the campaign is over you might want to measure its performance. In my previous post - Measuring the effectiveness of paid digital campaigns i mentioned key metrics that should be considered for measuring the overall success of a digital campaign. In addition to that you might also be required to report digital metrics for customer buying phases. I prepared below table that lists down channel wise key metrics for each buying phase:

digital-metrics-buying-cycle
Digital Metrics: Buying cycle
Hope you find this information useful. i will look forward for your feedbacks in comments section below.